Alex Smith conducted a Q&A with the media in Youngstown on Wednesday, and while he did not get into much detail, he did at least acknowledge numerous topics. He talked about what Mario Manningham brings to the table ("incredibly quick, great route runner, makes a bunch of tough catches ... can win one-on-one, that can really separate ..."), which comes amidst Manningham's own comments about how the two of them are continuing to develop their chemistry.
It seems like things have improved as the season has moved on. Manningham has quietly become more and more involved, emerging as the No. 2 to Michael Crabtree 's No. 1. Crabtree is the clear-cut No. 1 at this point, but Manningham is starting to emerge as a bigger threat. He led the team with 56 receiving yards and a long of 22 yards, finishing one catch back of Michael Crabtree. The team is continuing to mix things up in the passing game, but other than Crabtree, will Manningham become a second go-to wide receiver?
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 26, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
I think a lot of fans were wondering, in the 2nd half, why you guys didn't push the ball down field more. Is that a factor of being down 17-3 and they're just kind of taking that stuff away from you?
"Yeah, for sure. I thought looking back on it, especially there in the 2nd half, a lot of times when a certain play's called, whatever, playing very soft coverage. The couple times we felt like they did challenge us we did take a couple shots. A shot to [TE] Vernon [Davis], hit [WR] Mario [Manningham] down the field the one time. Yeah, we're trying to stay balanced there in the 2nd half. Made it the one score game for a second and then it went back to two scores. You're still thinking enough time, just put a drive together, get down and score and make it a one score game again. For me it's just a matter of moving the chains and kind of getting the rhythm going."
Obviously, WR Mario Manningham is from this area, can you just talk about his development since joining the club?
"Mario was an awesome player when he came here and I think it's not so much the development, just all of us kind of molding and shaping this thing together. It's going to change as we go on. To have the offseason together, then training camp was great. Mario's a special guy, got a special set of tools, especially the passing game, just mold it and make it what it is."
What's he bring to the offense?
"Mario? I think he's a guy that's incredibly quick, great route runner, makes a bunch of tough catches, made another one on Sunday. A guy that can win one-on-one, that can really separate, I think. So, brings a lot to the table."
Was there trust on that throw? You seem like you threw it before he even turned on the break.
"Yeah, he made a terrific catch in traffic and then somehow managed to get out of bounds, which was even better. It was a great catch. I threw it pretty early, it was up, made a great catch in traffic."
During the course of a game or season does it ebb and flow what defenses do as far as taking away the underneath stuff or taking away the deep stuff? Does that sort of keep you on your toes?
"Yeah, there's so much that goes into it, matchups. I think where a defense might feel they're vulnerable, where they think they can win verse us and vice versa, where we think we can win in a matchup. Game situation dictates that. Talking about Sunday's score, I think game's even, you're playing a lot different there in the 4th quarter, then all of a sudden you're up two scores. It changes for both sides of the ball. It changes what they're calling, it changes what we're doing. So, all those things play into it."
So when you face a team that their best player is no longer playing, he's a cornerback, is there an element of how are they going to try to cover that up?
"That's a great question for them, we'll see."
From your stand point what do you expect them to do?
"Yeah, don't know. Don't know what to expect. He hasn't played this year, he didn't play. He's missed a little time and don't know what to expect. The next guy has stepped up for them and has played. Don't know if that's going to change now that he's out for the season. Don't know. There's the unknown right there."
With the addition of WR Randy Moss and Manningham there was expectation of fans, oh they are going to be chucking it, really chucking it deep. To be honest you haven't done much of that to those guys this year. Is that just a matter of you, again like you said, take what the defense gives you not necessarily forcing things. Have there been opportunities for those guys down field?
"That's a good question. I really feel like left a lot out there with Randy, me and him. We missed, threw the high ball in the corner there, another high ball on the over. I really feel like we hit those two we're not necessarily talking about this, especially with him. As far as Mario, we got a lot of guys, a lot of guys that can make plays, not just those two. Going to continue to spread the ball around and go to the best matchup. But looking back on Sunday, could we have taken more shots? For sure, but hindsight it's so easy to say. When you're in the heat of the game there, you're just trying to get a score. You're trying to move the chains and get a score and do whatever it takes."
Do you think with Randy is that an issue of chemistry and just a new guy coming in and you need time?
"Running the corner route, I throw the ball, I threw the ball thinking back pylon. He rolled out of it, he ran a good route, beat the corner well and the ball just comes up high. We got to connect there. It's on me, talked about it quite a bit."
Alex, being here for the week out of your regular environment, what are the pros and cons in terms of preparation?
"The cons would be it's somewhere different. It's not your normal routine. You're away from your family, things like that. The same thing with that, there's no distractions here. We're all hanging out with each other here in the hotel. The meeting rooms are two floors up, you go up you can watch film. You're right here. You don't have to worry about going home. For me, yeah I'm away from my wife and kid, but at the same time there's no rush to go home either. So, I can sit here and watch film and really dig into the game plan. So, give and take for sure."
When you guys were here last year, your big run was just starting. How much further ahead is the whole program than it was a year ago?
"We certainly feel like we're a lot further ahead. With that, nothing's guaranteed. This is the NFL. But for sure I think we would all say we feel a lot more confident about where we're at right now than a year ago."
Has anything changed since last year around the area that you've seen since you guys have been here?
"Here? I have noticed much difference to be honest. Still a Longhorn [steakhouse] across the street, Chick-fil-A. Not much."
How much interaction have you had with Jets QB Tim Tebow over the years, through former University of Utah and University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer or through being in the NFL together?
"A little bit. More when he was in college, my first year out [of college] when he was there at Florida, got to know him. Went down and visited Coach Meyer and hung out a little bit with Tim. And then here and there, just seeing him, we played them a couple of times in Denver, just saying hello and seeing them in the offseason things. Here and there."